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Monday, September 24, 2001

Peter Gammons: Issues of character

I can’t say that I agree with Mr. Gammons a whole lot on this article.  It just seems to me that this is after-the-fact rationalization of what happened during the season.  When the Red Sox were winning, there was a lot less of this harping on their character.  What if the Dodgers were 15 games back?  Would Gary Sheffield’s behavior had caused that?  Gary Sheffield’s actions had to be at least as damaging as Carl Everett’s, but now the Dodgers have character and the Red Sox don’t?  He also mentions Marquis Grissom for the Dodgers as someone who has improved the team.  I have to think that the Dodgers would have been in the playoffs if they could have gotten something more than a .671 OPS out of centerfield.

Gammons is also hypocritical in this article.  He has many times defended Wil Cordero pointing out that he has custody of his children, but now as it suits his purpose he runs an anonymous quote blasting Duqe for acquiring Cordero.  Which is it, Peter?  Does Cordero have character or not?  Or maybe Duqe led him astray?  Except he never talks to his players. 

It should also be pointed out that Everett spent as much or more time in the character building Yankee and Mets organizations than he has with the Red Sox.

I think it is time for Duqe to go, but I also think Gammons needs to display a bit more integrity in his writing.

Sean Forman Posted: September 24, 2001 at 01:06 PM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark

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   1. Pete Sommers Posted: September 24, 2001 at 02:29 PM (#72847)
I don't think I'll waste my time reading the column, but I love the headline on the ESPN baseball page: "The contrasts of the Mets and Red Sox indicate the importance of character."
   2. Fadeaway: The Baseball History Podcast Posted: September 24, 2001 at 02:45 PM (#72849)
Since Opening Day, Sheffield has NOT been a negative factor for the Dodgers, either on the field or in the clubhouse. He's not only performed well despite injury, but has been quite a team player and has played better defensively than I expected him to. His one problem is that every time he gets called out on strikes he throws a temper tantrum, which has resulted in about five ejections, including one yesterday in the first inning of one of the most important games of the season.

Grissom has been a complete disaster at the plate, but his teammates seem to acknowledge him as an important leader on the team, and he has been given much credit for getting Sheffield to cool it during Spring Training. For whatever that's worth.
   3. Colin Posted: September 24, 2001 at 04:14 PM (#72851)
There has been a lot of talk that Everett will be traded, but I wonder - who will take him? I imagine the Sox would have to eat some salary, even though he isn't paid a lot by some standards ($7m a year doesn't buymuch). But what manager is going to want to manage him? Are there active managers out there whom he's gotten along with okay in the past?

Someone will take him, that I know, but it doesn't seem like there'll be a line at the door to get him.
   4. RichRifkin Posted: September 24, 2001 at 04:57 PM (#72852)
Colin "even though he isn't paid a lot by some standards ($7m a year doesn't buymuch)."

Everett is actually due to earn $8.1 million in 2002 and $8.8 million in 2003.

In another thread, I considered some trade options for the Red Sox - including dealing him for other vastly overpaid players - and I concluded that Everett is likely to still be on the Red Sox on Opening Day next season. If he is traded, my guess is that will come just before the July, 2002 trade deadline.
   5. RichRifkin Posted: September 24, 2001 at 05:45 PM (#72853)
In the July/August 2001 edition of The Atlantic, there is an excellent article by B.R. Myers, A Reader's Manifesto, decrying the pretentiousness of American literary prose. Peter Gammons's hokum perfectly fits this bill.

The following run-on by Gammons is a good example:

"Then came their Friday tribute and dramatic Mike Piazza home-run victory, which even if it doesn't return the Mets to the postseason is a reminder that in the eyes of Piazza, Franco, Robin Ventura, Al Leiter, Armando Benitez, Edgardo Alfonzo and so many other players is a three-year pattern of graceful performance under pressure."

Don DeLillo couldn't have said it any worse.

Sorry to deconstruct for a minute, but take a look at the two usages of "is" in the sentence. I can't figure out what singular nouns are acting on either one. Can you? If the first "is" acts on Mike Piazza's home run, then why does Gammons make the noun plural by tying in "their Friday tribute"?

Beyond his incredibly bad grammar, how exactly does that list of players demonstrate "graceful performance under pressure"?

It seems to me that if Peter is going to be a writer, he ought first learn how to write.
   6. Lest we forget Posted: September 24, 2001 at 09:02 PM (#72855)
Gammons, Gammons, Gammons. Where did he come from? I peek in on his column from time to time, but it's such surface level stuff that it leaves me wanting for something of substance. The guy clearly has a network of worth up his sleeve; but, man, he's either over-extended himself and can't afford the time to do actual research or he really and simply does have a simplistic Sammy-better-than-Barry approach to the game.

And I admire Sammy big time...but Peter is a (unfortunately nationally published and saluted) baffoon.
   7. Bob T Posted: September 25, 2001 at 10:33 PM (#72858)
I think that part of the problem with Peter Gammons is that he switched from being Peter Gammons, writer for the Boston Globe, to PETER GAMMONS, BASEBALL EXPERT AS ANOINTED BY ESPN.

I believe he thinks of himself as the top writer/analyst around (or at least the most influential). In some earlier columns on this year, Gammons even ventured into the political realm weighing in on Sen. John Kerry and various members of the Kennedy family. (Whom he doesn't seem to care for much.)

I'm not quite sure whom Gammons will be able to rely on for inside info if the Reds get rid of Jim Bowden. Kevin Towers will still be around.
   8. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 26, 2001 at 02:14 PM (#72861)
The underlying problem is that Sports Culture, as embodied by ESPN, needs a stable of Experts who can (a) get out of bed at 5:30 am and give the world an opinion about anything; (b) make that opinion sound plausible; (c) make it entertaining; and (d) make it a few hundred words or less, ideally a few sentences.

The "Gammons problem" is hardly confined to sports. In my business (used books), the most well-known figure in town is a charming (oh, he is) fellow who has convinced everyone from the Library of Congress to several local universities that he is some kind of a rare book expert. He even has a radio show picked up by some of the smaller PBS outlets. In reality, he is a total BSer, who has claimed to have fought in Vietnam (he never served in the military), who has claimed knowledge of Mandarin Chinese (he was caught in this lie in one particularly amusing moment); and who in my presence once claimed to speak "Swiss." He also has placed his shop in Chapter 11 twice (never noted by the local media), has bounced too many checks to count, and is generally in the lowest 1% of the population when it comes to matters of character and integrity---an assertion that few who have had more than casual dealings with him would question. (He even stiffs bookies.)Yet in his second swing at bankruptcy, he goes on his merry way, and will sink only when his creditors finally figure out his game and pull the plug. The reason? Far too many people who SHOULD know better about this character, and who are in a position that they COULD do something to bring him down, simply don't care. As I said, he is quite charming in a superficial way. And in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is often king. Especially if that one eyed man knows that the people he is addressing really ARE blind, regardless of what they themselves may think.

So I am not surprised that Peter Gammons is still on ESPN. All he does is to botch a few facts and come out with a few insupportable opinions. To ESPN, all that matters is that he has the four selling points I alluded to above. All else is Who Shot John, as the inimitable Minnesota Fats used to put it.
   9. Toby Posted: October 01, 2001 at 04:17 PM (#72862)
Thanks for the link to the column, Joel. I can corroborate what that column implies -- Rob Neyer's editors won't allow him to be critical of Gammons. To be Gammons-esque about it, let me just say that I have this from a top source at ESPN.

I don't know Gammons personally but I feel like I do, having grown up outside Boston reading his Sunday notes columns for the Globe back in the 70s. Let's not be too hard on him. I don't expect free agents to sign for less than the highest bid, and I don't hold it against them when they do, even if they don't live up to it. I give Gammons the same courtesy -- if Disney/ABC/ESPN is going to pay him handsomely to be their baseball expert, so be it; they also pay Dennis Miller to be their football expert. It's not the fault of Gammons or Miller. We all know that if ESPN offered you or me the same gig we'd take it.

Gammons nowadays is to sports journalism as Larry King is to news journalism or as Pat O'Brien is to entertainment journalism. So be it.

The flaws in Gammons' work that are mentioned in previous posts are almost entirely the responsibility of Gammons' editors, not Gammons himself. I used to be a copy editor, I write this from experience -- most journalists need their work cleaned up, either because their English "ain't" so good to begin with or (more often) because writing on deadline isn't conducive to good English. The folks at ESPN are doing a poor job editing Gammons.

Having said that, let's be glad that ESPN is willing to keep Neyer gainfully employed and gives him relatively free reign to criticize ESPN's on-air talent -- Joe Morgan comes to mind. It's too bad they won't go all the way and let Neyer criticize Gammons ... but would the pissing contest that could result really be in anyone's interest? As it stands, Gammons must read Neyer's column and other sabermetric work -- he even has started working OPS and other sabermetric stuff into his own column. So there's hope. Let Gammons keep reading it and come to its wisdom in his own time. It seems to be happening.

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